Moscow — In his annual end-of-year news conference, Russian president Vladimir Putin warned about the growing threat of nuclear war.
“The danger of the situation escalating is being downplayed,” Putin told a crowd of hundreds of journalists in Moscow. “If something like this would happen, it might lead to the collapse of the entire civilization.”
Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump stated his intention to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty that has kept nuclear weapons out of Europe for thirty years.
“I believe that humanity would have the necessary common sense in order to avoid any extremities,” Putin said, noting that if the U.S. were to put intermediate range missiles in Europe, Russia would take countermeasures.
Press conference known for its pageantry
Putin is facing the media during a massive annual press conference for which a reported 1702 journalists have been accredited. In past years, the marathon conference has run for over four hours and has been known for its pageantry.
Though members of the international press do attend, the majority of questions are usually asked by local journalists from around Russia. Competing with one another for attention, they wave bright signs in order to get called on. This year, attendees have been asked to restrict the size of their posters so as not to block television cameras.
Russia’s media has been categorized as “Not free” by the group Freedom House. Ahead of this year’s conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a televised interview that, “If somebody tries to dispute the fact that there is freedom of speech in Russia, I am ready to argue with them forever,” according to the Russian state news agency, TASS.
In addition to domestic issues, the Russian president may be asked about his nation’s relations with the United States, including about controversies over what the U.S. intelligence community says was Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, announced Wednesday, may also come up, as well as the recent escalation of tensions in Ukraine.